Thursday, January 18, 2018

Economic Crisis has Significantly Reduced Differences between Urban and Rural Russians, Sociologists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 18 – Residents of the Russian capitals have suffered more from the economic crisis than has the remainder of the population, and the decline in incomes there has “leveled the structural differences between the major cities and the provinces,” according to a new study by the Moscow Institute of Sociology.

            The research, reported in today’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, finds that “unlike the situation of the early 2000s, the population of Moscow and St. Petrsburg regarding the relative size of the poor, the rich and those inbetween is not different from the one in the provinces,” a major change since sociologists looked at this in 2003 (

            The situation outside the capitals has advanced significantly regarding material possessions and the electronic world, and the difference between the two regarding durable goods and Internet penetration has declined as well, the scholars say.

            In 2003, half of the residents of the capitals had mobile telephones but only 20 percent in the provinces did. Now, “almost 100 percent” of both have them.  The share owning computers has increased from 76 percent to 89 percent in the capitals while in the provinces, the share in the provinces has shot up from 20 percent to 76 percent.

            Fifty-four percent of residents of the capitals use computers; the share in the provinces is only slightly lower – 44 percent. In 2017, 26 percent of villagers said they participate in social networks every day, “one percent more than in the capitals but slightly less in district and federal subject centers where the numbers are 30 and 34 percent respectively.

            The incomes of residents of the capitals remain higher – two to 2.5 times more than residents in the regions – but the economic crisis has affected the former more than the latter. Residents of the capitals “more than residents of the provinces felt the negative dynamic not only of their material situation but also their standard of living as a whole.”

            Indicative of this is that about 59 percent of the residents of the capitals say that their losses from the recent crisis have been “catastrophic or essential,” while 54 percent of residents of other cities and only 43 percent of those in rural areas express that view, the sociological study says.

            But despite these changes, Academician Mikhail Gorshkov observes, “the residents of the major cities are more optimistic than other Russians and expect positive changes in the future.”  They have more financial resources like second homes than do residents of villages: 55 percent as opposed to 25 percent in the latter. Indeed, now, only 40 percent of villagers own land.

            Duma deputy Mikhail Shchapov says that a major reason that people in the villagers didn’t feel the current crisis as much is that they had not lived as well earlier and so didn’t feel the decline as much as residents of the capitals have.  Indeed, the fact that 43 percent of rural people describe the situation as catastrophic says a lot.

            “If even people who have nothing to lose because they had nothing all the same feel losses, then the decline in the economy really has an all-national and catastrophic character.”

            One important development that has affected both urban and rural Russians is the appearance of a greater willingness to relocate to improve their lives. Now “about three percent” do so every year, with the share in the capitals “more than twice” that of the one in the provinces. But everyone is now familiar with people moving in and out.

            According to the new study as summarized by Nezavisimaya gazeta, “in 2017 in all types of population points without exception, the majority consisted not of indigenous residents but of new arrivals. More than that, 44 percent of those asked where they would like to live named a place other than the one where they live.” Thus, “the potential for migration is today very large.”

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